CatholicSocial TeachingResearchPaper War andPeace: Just WarTheory By AbdullahMirza 23/12/20 What isWar?War is conflict among states where armed forces confront the armedforces of another state. It is generally conducted within certain customs orlaws. By common consent war is generally seen as ‘just’ if it is inself-defence and if it is sanctioned by the UN. However, there were just warsprior to the formation of the UN and UN permission is not intrinsic to just wartheory. It is difficult to argue the idea of ‘just cause’ if the war is againsta state that poses no immediate threat, but which perhaps has an undemocraticregime.War used to be something that you read about in history books, butnow you can see it every day. Apart from disease and natural disasters, we seethe horror of war all the time and not many other things are able to bring homehuman suffering to such an extreme level.
It can be very hard to imagine whyanyone would want to go to war with the population of another country; that anysane individual would want to attack another country to seize its land or tochange its political processes. Therefore, there must be a range of powerfulmotivations that would mean going to war. Out of most social issues, war is probably the only ethical issuethat has produced such a large demonstration of public feeling.
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In the past,war was seen to be something in far-off lands and the casualties werepredominantly professional soldiers on the battlefield. Today, travel andcommunication means that the world has become a much smaller place and wereceive live coverage on television. The majority of casualties today are civilians,who lose their homes, their livelihood, many even their lives. War most of thetime spills into terrorism which in many cases can present an even greater riskand threat to everyday civilian lives.People go to war for greed, for excitement and adventure, forreligion and politics. War is a very peculiar human activity and can bring outsome of our best traits, such as courage and self-sacrifice, and yet it canalso lead men and women to commit acts of cruelty and barbarism.The aim of Just War Theory is to provide a guideto the right way for states to act in potential conflict situations.
It onlyapplies to states, and not to individuals (although an individual can use thetheory to help them decide whether it is morally right to take part in aparticular war).TheDevelopment of Just WarThe moral theory of the ”just war”or ”limited war” doctrine begins with the presumption which binds allChristians: We should do no harm to our neighbours; how we treat our enemy isthe key test of whether we love our neighbour; and the possibility of takingeven one human life is a prospect we should consider in fear and trembling.The issue of the legitimacy of killing or using violence againstother people has occupied philosophers since ancient times. Most societies haverules that forbid killings, to prevent a community falling into anarchy, butthey also distinguish between murder and killing in war or as a form ofpunishment. This means that there has to be a clear understanding of whatconstitutes a war and how it should be conducted. Aristotle, for example,believed war was justified if self-defence was involved.
The Church’s teachings are clear wheninnocent lives are at stake. According to the Catechism, “Legitimate defence can be not only a right but a graveduty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defence of thecommon good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm.For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right touse arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.
“The Catholic Church always emphasizespeace over violence. Many examples are cited throughout Scripture. There is apresumption that binds all Christians that we should do no harm to our neighbours;how we treat our enemy is the greatest example of our love for our neighbour.However, the Church acknowledges special circumstances where evils andinjustices exist that provoke a response which requires a legitimate defence.Old Testament writings show the Jews believed God commanded themto fight their enemies. Stories also indicate their belief that it was totallyacceptable to massacre non-combatants: Deuteronomy 3:24, records the annihilationof the King Sihon’s subjects: women and children included, ‘We left nosurvivors’.The arrival of Jesus marked a dramatic change because he preachednon-violence.
‘Do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you’, he told hisfollowers in Matthew 5:39. The early Church adopted this pacifist approach untilChristianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. The Church wasthen required to change its approach to warfare in response to the state’spolitical needs. St Augustine was instrumental in this departure from pacifismand his ideas were developed by Aquinas. The theory of Just War, which began then,continued evolving in the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Convention.TheRequirement for a Just WarThe requirement for a Just War changed as things went along, Augustinestated that War can only be started by a recognised authority and that theremust be a Just Cause. Aquinas then added to the Just War in that he added thata war can only be fought for a just intention which he defined as the ‘advancementof God or the avoidance of evil’.
A while later, The Catholic Bishops ofAmerica developed three more clauses from Aquinas in 1983. The claims of bothsides must be evaluated before war can e started. It is called comparativejustice. There must be a reasonable chance of success to ‘prevent theirrational resort to force or hopeless resistance when the outcome of eitherwill clearly be disproportionate or futile.’ This would prevent people beingkilled or maimed for a hopeless cause. Proportionality, where the ‘damageinflicted and the costs incurred by a war must be proportionate to the good expectedby taking up arms’, which means it would be morally wrong to use excessiveforce to achieve a small gain.
War must also be the last resort after all otherattempts to resolve the dispute by negotiation have failed. Finally, onlylegitimate targets should be attacked and there should be discrimination betweencombatants and innocent civilians.Jusin Bello and Jus ad BellumWhen the morality of war is considered, there are two key areas ofconcern which the Just war theory addresses. One is whether it is right to goto war, which is known by the Latin name Jusad Bellum. The other is concerned with who the war is to be conducted against,know as Jus in Bello.What ismeant by recognised authority?Now let’s consider the criteria of Just War and see how easy it isto put into practice. With a recognised authority, it is generally acceptedthat only the head of the country or the state government is permitted todeclare war. In recent times there has been a move in public opinion to seek amuch wider permission for War.
British involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraqonly went ahead after a vote in Parliament but many people wanted the UnitedNations’ authority for the war, this is mainly because the invasion of Iraq wasnot in response to an attack. What makesa Cause Just?Many would regard this as the most significant point, but equallyit is one of the hardest to determine. Doesn’t everybody thing their cause isjust? Is it possible to be objective? Augustine said, ‘A just war is not to bedescribed as one that avenges wrongs, when a nations state has to be punished forrefusing to make amends for wrongs inflicted on its subjects, or to restorewhat has been seized unjustly.’ In Aquinas’ opinion, ‘Those who are attackedshould be attacked because they deserve it on account of some fault.’What makesan intention just?There is some overlap here with the previous point because Aquinasdefined a just intention as the advancement of good and the avoidance of evil.Here too it is difficult to be objective’ most states believe their intentionis just. This point was included to prevent rulers declaring war simply becausethey wanted to destroy another country or for a totally unrealistic cause.
As Aquinas summed it up in the SummaTheologica, for a resort to the sword to be justified it must be onthe authority of a sovereign, for a just cause rightly defined, and for a rightintention.Why include comparative justice?It was felt that if eachside thought about how their opposite number viewed the situation, it mightlead to a more peaceful outcome. The apportioning of punishment to the losersand rights to the winners has to be carefully balanced to respect human rightsand create peace. Are the values at stake critical enough tooverride the presumption against war?Is it possible to assess the likelihood of success?It is consideredwrong to start a war if you do not stand a chance of winning, because warinvolved the destruction of life and property. So it wouldbe unethical for a state to sacrifice the lives of its people (and the lives ofits enemy’s people) in a futile gesture that would not change anything. However,this condition can be dealt with by forming alliances with other countries inorder to make an unwinnable war winnable by ganging up on a common enemy.
Theidea of ‘winning’ is not a simple one. It’s probably better to rephrase thecondition like this:A war is only a just war if thereis a reasonable chance of success.This way of putting it makes itclear that there has to be an absolutely clear idea of what will count assuccess before any decision can be taken about the moral rightness of aparticular conflict. Thus the aims of a war must be set out in advance.
Whyproportionality?This was included to ensure thatone state does not use war as a pretext for meting out totally unreasonableforce on another country. This clause is particularly important now thatweapons of mass destruction like nuclear or biological warfare exist in somecountries’ arsenals. The harm they can cause is truly massive and must bemeasured against the gain. On the other hand, technological advances now makeit possible to target destruction extremely precisely: more commonly known asthe ‘surgical strike’.Alast resortNone of the philosophers involvedin the Just War Theory relished the idea of war: all believed peace waspreferable in all circumstances. This clause requires countries to make everyattempt to resolve a dispute by negotiation before considering an armedresponse.
Discriminationbetween targetsThis clause was designed toprotect innocent civilians. It requires the war to be waged against soldiersand military targets. In addition to people, buildings also have to beconsidered, so in this circumstance, it would be wrong to bomb a waterworks or powerstations.Whatdoes pacifism involve?Pacifism is the belief that war iswrong because violence is not the right solution to a dispute. Within pacifismthere can be a broad range of views. Some pacifists are absolutist and opposethe use of violence even in self-defence. Pacifism can also include anopposition to activities that support war, like weapons manufacture.Most pacifists will not undertakemilitary service and are usually referred to as a conscientious objector.
During the Second World War, when conscription came in, pacifists oftenundertook non-combatant duties; working as stretcher bearers or other medicalwork that involved saving life. Such were the experiencesof Desmond Doss, an American pacifist combat medic who was a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, refusing to carryor use a firearm or weapons of any kind. Doss became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honour, for service aboveand beyond the call of duty during the Battle of Okinawa.
There are otherpacifists who take a contingent attitude towards war in that they say it is thelesser of two evil, even though it may be wrong.Catholic PacifismAlthough we are examiningthe view from a Catholic point of view, it is worth being aware that mostreligions have followers who will make a case for pacifism, the most noteworthybeing Buddhism, which is a religion particularly committed to non-violence.Quakers are theonly major Roman Catholic demonization wholly committed to pacifism. Theirargument is that a violent response to a situation solves nothing and actuallyescalates the dispute. Quakers have been conscientious objectors in times ofwar and in times of peace are involved with the United Nations, working towardsinternational resolution.Because Jesusrejected violence and preached against it in the Sermon on the Mount, somemembers of other Christian denominations are also pacifist, and believe that infollowing Jesus’ doctrine of live and resisting violence, they are followingChristianity. However, pacifism is not actually the traditional Christianresponse to war. Since the times when Augustine first outlined the concept of aJust War, Christians have accepted that war is acceptable when confrontingevil.
The ethical reasons There are secularreasons for pacifism, which this extract from the British Humanist Association’sviews on war and peace demonstrates.’Human life isall the more valuable if you do not believe in an afterlife and humanists(indeed any rational person) would think very carefully before supporting anywar, because of the loss of life involved. Wars are hugely destructive, ruininglives, wasting resource, and degrading the environment…’The arguments forpacifism include that as an absolutist philosophy, it is straightforward toapply, also it respects the idea of sanctity of life, finally for Christians,it closely follows the teachings of Jesus.However, thearguments against pacifism are that it can allow evil to flourish, it offers noreal protection for the innocent, it removes the right for self-defence andpacifism seems powerless against modern weapons of mass destruction and massgenocide.
The Kantian Approach to warAs adeontological argument, Kant focused not only on the action itself, but also onthe motivation for that particular action. As part of his categoricalimperative, Kant required an action to be universal for it to be moral. It isdifficult to formulate a maxim that will allow killing to be universal sincethis would go against the base laws of nature. Perhaps it might be possible touniversalise the right to self-defence when someone is threatened by violence.
Although it may seem unlikely, but if everyone followed Kant’s first maxim andonly fought in self-defence, all world wars would end.Kant’s secondmaxim, requiring humans to be treated as ends not means, makes it difficult tojustify anyone being killed in a war that is being fought for the greater goodof the state. War might, however, be justified as its purpose were to liberatemembers of that country from an oppressive ruler.The third maximrequires that everybody is treated as though they have the same human rights. Itcould be argued that this is exactly what the United Nations sets out to doThe Utilitarian approachAs a teleologicaltheory, Utilitarianism is concerned with the outcome of war, rather than theact itself. To judge the morality of war, all the pain and injury that resultfrom war has to be weighed against the pleasure and gain that war can produce.It is necessary to weigh up the losses and gains of both sides in the conflict.The aftermath of the Iraq war has shown that weighing up the long-term as wellas the immediate consequences of a war is extremely difficult.
The approach of Natural LawThe first ofAquinas’ five primary precepts, the preservation of life, is relevant to aconsideration of the morality of war, but it could be used by either side. Warcould be justified as a method of self-defence or as a way of protectinginnocent lives in danger. But equally, Natural Law could be used as an argumentagainst going to war, where the loss of life is inevitable and some of thatloss will be of innocent civilian life. Catholic teaching and WarThe majority ofCatholics believe that war is an acceptable method of defeating evil, providedthe conditions for a Just War are followed.
While Jesus himself did advocatepacifism, Catholics also point to the other stories where Jesus acceptedlimited use of violence. Most notably, he personally violently overthrew thetables of the money-changers in the Temple in order to restore the sanctity ofthe place. Jesus also advised his followers to arm themselves with swordsbefore setting out to the ministry in Luke 22: 36 – 38.
The teachings of the Churchsince Augustine have led Christians to understand they have a moral duty tofight in support of their country.A modernChristian approach to the subject of war has been led by the philosopherReinhold Niebuhr, who rejected pacifism as heresy. He argued that love cannotwork in the world unless we are proactive. In an imperfect world here sin andevil surrounds us, it may be necessary to resort to violence to bring aboutpeace on earth. Following on from that, he believed that a community mustimpose order and justice on its people – using force if necessary. The moralrules which govern the behaviour of individuals are not the same as those whichgovern community behaviour, since God rules through human institutions likegovernment and courts.
Although Christian realists believe war is an evil, theyaccept that it may necessary to prevent even greater evils and they wouldaccept a war which in turn, accepts serves national interest as morally acceptable.